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Antisocial Behavior in Toddlers

by Carly Seifert

According to the Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice, between 4 and 6 million children have been identified as having antisocial behavior. It is important to diagnose and treat antisocial behavior, which is similar to aggressive behavior, before it becomes ingrained in a child and leads him to cause harm to others or himself.

Identifying Risk Factors

According to the Encyclopedia of Children's Health, your child is at higher risk for developing antisocial behavior in the event of a family history of antisocial or aggressive behavior, if his home life is unstable, if some type of major disruption in his life has occurred such as divorce or death, or if either parent has psychiatric disorders, including maternal depression.

Symptoms

While antisocial behavior isn't diagnosed until a child is at least age 3 or 4, toddlers can display concerning behaviors that would eventually lead to this diagnosis. The Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice lists some of these behaviors as showing aggression toward parents, siblings and peers, excessive tantrum-throwing, and a tendency toward destructiveness and defiance. Young children with antisocial behaviors are at increased risk of delinquent behavior such as dropping out of school and abusing drugs and alcohol during adolescence.

Intervention

If you notice your toddler repeatedly engaging in those antisocial behaviors, call your doctor. Early intervention -- even during the toddler and preschool years -- is key to a successful outcome. The Encyclopedia of Children's Health warns that if children with antisocial behavior are left untreated until age 8, they are more likely to continue displaying this behavior throughout their lifetimes.

Treatment

Your doctor can give you added insight and tips on resources to help you handle your toddler's behavior before it leads to anything worse. He can also refer you to a counselor or child psychologist. These experts will work with you and your little one to help you facilitate healthful and age-appropriate ways for him to express his anger and frustration without harming people or property. They might also help you restructure your family dynamic in a way that benefits your toddler and put you in contact with resources in the form of parent-support groups.

About the Author

Carly Seifert has been a piano instructor since 2001. She has also covered adoption and introducing children to the arts for "Montana Parent Magazine." Seifert graduated from University of California, Irvine with a Bachelor of Arts in drama.

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